On Monday, as the Syrian military unleashed an unprecedented heavy artillery bombardment on the rebel stronghold of Homs, the Obama administration closed the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. The departure of Ambassador Robert Ford and all other U.S. diplomats comes two weeks after Washington warned the government of Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. would pull out unless Syria stepped up security around the embassy, and just two two days after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning Assad. How will the Obama administration's decision affect its effort to compel Assad to make way for democratic reform?

It seems we're giving up on Syria: You know "a country is on the verge of collapse when the U.S. Embassy shutters its doors and gets out of Dodge," says Elise Labott at CNN. Although the U.S. isn't cutting diplomatic ties with Syria, "the move will likely be seen as a message to Syria that "we are done with you." After the departure of Ford, an outspoken critic of Assad's deadly crackdown, other countries will follow, "leaving a black hole in both independent observers to the violence and outreach to the opposition."
"Why leave Syria"

Actually, this tightens Assad's noose: Closing the embassy amounts to a "dramatic escalation of Western pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to give up power," says Bassem Mroue for the Associated Press. It underscores Assad's growing isolation, and changes the momentum just after Russia and China gave him some breathing room at the U.N.
"U.S. closes Syrian embassy, presses Assad to go"

The administration should have done this long ago: "Perhaps we can chalk this up to 'better late than never,'" says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But we should never have sent Ford back to Syria after briefly calling him home last year. We have no business maintaining cordial relations with a government that is "actively opening fire on its own people" — that's why we bombed Libya. 
"U.S. closes Syrian embassy after almost a year of military attacks on civilians"